I’ve never been super creative, or good at baking, or particularly good at ironing. I lack a certain attention to detail for ironing and baking, and all my creative juices are wrapped up in writing, so there isn’t much left for crafting or imagining how a room should organized or decorated (though I wish I had those skills). When I first got married, I thought being a good wife meant all of these things (and a whole host of others). I thought I needed to make elaborate meals from scratch, yet failed to see that we were living on a seminary student budget. I thought I needed to do everything for my husband, yet I didn’t understand why he was better served by me taking the time to talk through his theology paper with him. I thought serving my husband meant looking like the wife in my Sunday school class, rather than knowing the man sitting across from me at dinner every night.
I had a lot to learn.
As I look back on my days of misplaced expectations and unhelpful comparison I can’t help but think about Jesus’ words to Peter when he rebuked him for asking what would happen to John in John 21:20-22. Jesus replied “What is that to you? You follow me.”
Isn’t that how we so often are when it comes to all manner of things, including how we serve our husbands? We see the wife who irons her husband’s shirts every day and wonder if we should be doing the same thing. We hear a wife talk about the notes she leaves for her husband when he travels and assume that we must also prepare notes for our husband when he is away. We measure our competency as a wife by the woman standing next to us and feel the weight of not measuring up.
A Suitable Helper
But this type of thinking fails to understand what God intended when he created Eve to be a helper to Adam, and us a helper to our husbands. She met a need in Adam’s life. She was created to serve him uniquely as a helper “fit for him” (Gen 2:18). This also is your role as a wife. When God joined you with your husband in marriage he was meeting a need in your husband’s life. You were made to complete what was lacking in his life, to help make him into a better man, and to serve him in ways only you can. This means that you can’t look at your friend’s marriage and count the ways you don’t measure up—or are better than her. It’s like comparing apples to oranges. Every marriage is different.
When Serving is Natural and Unnatural
Marriage is hard. Serving another person that you live in close proximity to is never easy. Add to that the fact that the feelings you have for this other person are intensified by living a full life together with children, a career, ministry, and other obligations, and there is a lot on the table when you daily lay your life down for your husband. Some of the ways you serve him are out of your unique gifting given by God. It comes naturally to you. But then there are ways you are called upon to serve him that are harder. These ways don’t come naturally to you. In these moments it is an opportunity for you to count him as more significant than yourself (Phil. 2:3). Marriage is a lesson in humility. It is daily looking to his interests (Phil. 2:4). In all of the ways you serve your husband, both natural and unnatural, you are given a chance to live like Christ, who took on the form of a servant to redeem us and make us his own (Phil 2:5-8).
So, how do you serve your husband? Because every marriage is different and every spouse is different, the answer is actually much simpler than you might think.
First, know who you are. The only way you will know what gifts you possess uniquely and what comes naturally to you is if you know who God has created you to be. How has he gifted you? Know these ways and ask him to give you greater insight into how you can cultivate these gifts for the good of others, including your husband.
Second, know your husband. This is where you will see some of the unnatural ways that you are called to serve your husband. Maybe he likes to have things clean and orderly and you don’t know the first thing about keeping anything clean and organized. That’s a good thing to know about your husband. Marriage is as much about sanctifying us as it is anything else. It is in these moments of knowing your husband (and in turn knowing the ways you may not be like him) that you can see God making you (and him) into new creations that are better together than apart.
Third, look straight ahead to the Savior. Peter’s problem was that he was looking away from Jesus and at John’s life. My problem was that I was looking away from Christ and at the women around me. He has given me everything I need to accomplish the good works he has prepared for me, including serving my husband (Eph. 2:10). It’s not about what the woman next door is doing. It’s about what the man sitting next to me in this partnership for life needs most.
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